Finding Real Estate in Paris: What You Need to Know

There is no MLS (Multiple Listing System) in France and there is an abundance of independent real estate agencies in Paris—4,000+. There are a few national networks (e.g. Fédération Nationale de l’Immobilier [FNAIM]), some franchises (e.g. Century 21) and trade associations (e.g. Syndicat National de Professionels Immobiliers [SNPI]). However, there is a limited sharing of commissions among agencies and inventory is normally limited to the neighborhood.

This has changed with the popularity of the Internet as online resources are plentiful, which makes it easier to find French properties, but more importantly, makes it easier to compare the quality and price of properties.

One thing to keep in mind when searching for properties, which we find true primarily in such a competitive market as Paris: properties advertised on websites, in magazines and even agency windows have either been sold and have not been yet removed from the advertising or have been on the market a long time…for good reason. Really saleable properties are sold before the agency has an opportunity to advertise them openly, as there are so many ready buyers and so few properties to sell! To find these Paris properties requires direct contact with the agencies and owners at the moment the properties go on the market.

Set your goals before you buy your property in Paris?

Determine your specific goals before you set out to look for properties—this is the most important first step in the process. Ask yourself these questions:

* Will it be your primary or secondary residence?

* In which areas do you want to live or invest?

* Would you want to maximize your cost vs. space by living in less-centrally located areas?

* Will you want to offer the property for short- or long-term rental?

* How important is it to be near tourist areas and attractions?

* Does it need to be close to the Métro and/or RER with easy access to airports?

* Is there access to businesses, schools, family-related amenities?

* Is it strictly an investment to gain the highest ROI?

Then ask yourself even more specific questions about your needs and desires:

* Are you looking to buy an apartment, loft, or duplex? Hôtel Particulier? Office space?

* How many square meters is the minimum size? (1 square meter = approximately 11 square feet.)

* How many separate WC’s do you require and how many bathrooms?

* Do you require a bathtub? Or shower?

* Must the kitchen be a separate room? Or open to the living room?

* Do you need a dining area?

* Must the building be new/modern or old (17th-, 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century)?

* Do you require Haussmannian style, “pierre-de-taille,”  “hôtel particulier,” other or are you indifferent?

* Do you require that the building to be in good condition?

* Which floor level do you require your apartment to be on?

* Will you need to have parking close by?

* Do you require a terrace, balcony, or garden?

* Listed in order of importance, must the property have:

A view? Proximity to a desired location? In a quiet area? With high ceilings? No renovation required? Specific exposition (west, south, etc.).

We find in our experience that the more specific you can narrow the search, the more successful you will be!

Paris properties for sale by owner

Properties are often advertised in various newspapers and publications by their owners, without agency fees. “Particulier à Particulier” is a weekly publication issued every Thursday listing these properties. Offerings are also listed at the website here.

The asking price of properties includes any agency commissions, normally 5%. Properties for sale by owner are not necessarily less expensive than those offered by the agencies, as sellers try to achieve the full market price, saving themselves the commission. Often a seller will enlist the help of agencies, but also advertise the property themselves in these publications.

We find that owners representing their own properties can often be the most difficult to deal with, as they are not professional real estate agents, and may or may not follow the rules of business etiquette as well as the professionals.

Online Paris property listings

Many agencies and associations now list their properties for sale on their websites. Searching the Internet is a useful tool in determining which agencies have the best properties or types of properties that fit your parameters, price comparisons for different districts, and other valuable information. Here are some to check out:

http://www.fnaim.fr/

http://explorimmo.com/

http://www.seloger.com/

Agency listings in Paris

Agencies traditionally promote their listings in the windows of their offices. Read them for fun, but make contact directly with the agents to learn what’s REALLY on the market! To find a reasonable selection of properties to visit, one must visit many of the agencies in any one district. No one agent can be your advisor and no matter how much you like the agent, do not trust him to provide unbiased advice as a property consultant would. Remember, the agent’s only interest is selling the properties he/she lists!

Use insider information

Nothing works better than a tip from someone on the “inside” about a property about to go on the market. The “guardiens” of the buildings often know if someone is planning on selling, so if you’re interested in a particular “quartier,” and see a building that you fancy, don’t hesitate to ask the guardien.

One last word of advice is to ‘look up!’ — often an “A Vendre” sign in a window in the “quartier” you like most is the simplest and best way to find the “pied-à-terre” of your dreams.

About the author: Adrian Leeds is founder and director of the Adrian Leeds Group, LLC, a team of North Americans who provide complete property consultation services including property search, purchase and sales assistance, financing, and marketing and development of fractional ownership properties.

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